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CSU banks on batteries for energy future

There is a lot of buzz about achieving 100% renewable energy these days.

Unfortunately, the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow.

Colorado Springs Utilities believes the solution to that inconsistency is large industrial batteries.

CSU's Pike Solar and Storage Project, located in the same area as other solar arrays, incorporates recent improvements in both solar and battery technology.

CEO Aram Benyamin explained that the batteries will be re-charged by excess solar energy that's generated but not needed at that moment.

"That gives us additional capabilities of storing the energy that we generate that we don't need at that period of time, and we can discharge that energy at night or at the time that we need it the most," he said.

Currently, the largest battery storage project in Colorado belongs to United Power in Weld County.

United's vending machine-size batteries can collectively produce 4 megawatts for about 4 hours.

Chief Rsource Officer Dean Hubbock says they have worked brilliantly so far.

"When we've called for the dispatch, it's operated and functioned. So I don't think we could have asked for any better results than what we've got right there."

Hubbock adds that while battery performance has increased tremendously over the last decade, the cost has actually plummuted.

"Those price points are coming down, and it is by far, depending on how you want to use it, very cost effective," says Hubbock.

Mike Kruger, President of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, agrees.

"They're getting better and cheaper, as we learn how to build and install them."

Krueger agrees that both price and performance have come a long way, and make solar energy a cost-effective solution for utilities instead of just the "feel good" solution that it
once was.

"Solar (cost) is down 90% over 10 years. So what used to cost a dollar now costs a dime," he explains.

Still, there are concerns.

Many conservative groups like PragerU question whether renewable sources can ever produce enough energy to allow utility companies to completely move away from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Even former President Trump expressed his doubts during a debate back in Cctober.

"It (solar) is not powerful enough yet to really run our big beautiful factories that we need to compete with the world. So it's all a pipe dream."

Benyamin claims batteries are the future, not a pipe dream, but he admits that battery technology must continue improve in the coming years in order for them to store larger amounts and run for longer periods of time.

Until that happens, fossil fuels like natural gas and coal will remain in the background, to ensure CSU can meet the city's needs.

"In the foreseeable future, we see gas generation as part of our system, but eventually I think we will come to a point where technology is going to solve that problem and storage will become that bridge to 100% renewable," says Benyamin.

In the big picture, 100% renewable is still a long way away.

Even when the new Pike Solar and Storage Project comes online in 2023, only about 27% of CSU's power will come from renewable sources.

Statewide, it's a similar percentage.

The governor's goal is to be 100% renewable by 2040

If that goal is to be met, the state will need a lot more solar, wind, and battery projects over the next 20 years.

Bart Bedsole

Bart is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Bart here.

Comments

5 Comments

  1. Batteries are far from “clean” or “green” with a myriad of toxic chemicals and mined materials. “Renewable energy” is a solution looking for a problem. If you love mega-companies getting away with murder, then you’ll love companies like Tesla manufacturing toxic batteries, selling for tens of millions of dollars to brain-washed municipal utilities like CSU in the name of sustainability. Colorado Springs residents, get ready for even HIGHER electric rates with tons of chemically charged batteries sitting on standby.

    1. Batteries like these have a finite life span, some as short as 3 years. So its constant cycle of replacing the older battery cells. Good grief, perhaps its time we vote out the utility board (mostly city council members). They are clearly not listening to the rate payers of this city…

  2. Ever wonder where the lithium for those batteries? In giant pit mines that does far more damage to mother earth than coal mining and fracking combined.

  3. I have seen an article about batter banks for utility storage. In the long run more carbon is generated through the manufacturing and disposal of the batters than they save. Like 5 times over.
    People also forget that when they say “carbon neutral” it means when they operate. Not the whole life cycle. It takes a lot to manufacture these green technologies. Many time more than they save. Solar panels are lower but right now their lifespan of 5 years till they are producing only 80% of their original capacity. Then they will need to be replaced. Recycling them is hard but can be done. Wind is a joke. The fiberglass blades are not a green deal. They can’t be recycled and have to be put in a land fill. The energy used to create them is also upside down.
    Just know this. In this transition to these not cost effective green technologies will be paid for by You and Me. Just like with the gas price hike now. Be ready for double or triple the utility bill than we have typically had and have now.

  4. Just how many batteries, solar panels and wind generators will be needed to power El Paso county now and meet its future needs?. How many acres of land will be required? What is the projected cost for this transition? What will consumers be paying per kwhr?

    Consumers want real facts about what to expect from going green, not some fake delightful general projection from the marxist globalist oligarchs and their sycophants of what is to come.

    Going green is a subject that is full of lies and false promises that will enrich a few and stick it too the middle class and poor.

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